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Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Cavities are five times more common than asthma. Children with poor oral hygiene are three times more likely to miss school. Children and families have a secret weapon to help prevent tooth decay early — good oral hygiene and fluoride.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named community fluoridated water as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century. Research and scientific evidence shows that fluoride is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay in children and adults. Fluoride and preventive care are essential to a healthy mouth and body.
Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness works with Norton Children’s Medical Group offices throughout Louisville and Southern Indiana to make fluoride treatments available during annual wellness visits. In addition to a fluoride treatment and instructions on brushing and flossing, kids also get a referral to a dental office.
While teeth are developing under the gums, fluoridated water helps to strengthen the tooth structure that is being built. For teeth above the gums, drinking fluoridated water daily helps to keep the teeth strong by replacing weakened cells with stronger cells where the tooth enamel has started to break down.
Using toothpaste with fluoride also strengthens teeth, along with fluoride varnishes applied by a dental professional. Fluoride varnish has a stronger concentration of fluoride and can help decrease the chance of tooth decay by 30%. Regular brushing and flossing at home also are critical to maintaining a healthy smile.
Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to keep teeth and gums healthy. Here are tips to help all members of the family start a healthy mouth routine:
Brush teeth at least twice a day and floss. Brush teeth every morning and night. Show your child how to brush, then have them brush by themselves. Most children are able to properly brush by themselves around age 6 or 7. An adult may need to assist with flossing.
Use the right amount of toothpaste. Use a rice-size smear of toothpaste with fluoride for children up to age 3. Children ages 3 and older need a pea-size amount of toothpaste.
Start dental checkups early. Your child’s first preventive dental checkup should happen by age 1. While babies may not have all their teeth, having a dentist evaluate their oral health is important as soon as possible to decrease the chance for tooth decay in the future.
Limit sugary drinks and candy. Sugar helps bacteria grow. Limit drinks with a lot of sugar, such as juices, sports drinks and soda, by replacing them with tap water. Keep candy and foods with added sugar to a minimum to help prevent dental decay and promote a healthier diet.
Beware of shared bacteria. Sharing bacteria is a common issue that can lead to early tooth decay. We are born with certain bacteria and exposed to other types, typically from caregivers or family members. Limit sharing silverware, giving kisses on the mouth and other instances of sharing saliva to limit exposure to new bacteria.